Parallel tempering, also known as replica exchange MCMC sampling, is a simulation method aimed at improving the dynamic properties of Monte Carlo method simulations of physical systems, and of Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling methods more generally. The replica exchange method was originally devised by Swendsen, then extended by Geyer and later developed, among others, by Giorgio Parisi. Sugita and Okamoto formulated a molecular dynamics version of parallel tempering: this is usually known as replica-exchange molecular dynamics or REMD.
Essentially, one runs N copies of the system, randomly initialized, at different temperatures. Then, based on the Metropolis criterion one exchanges configurations at different temperatures. The idea of this method is to make configurations at high temperatures available to the simulations at low temperatures and vice versa. This results in a very robust ensemble which is able to sample both low and high energy configurations. In this way, thermodynamical properties such as the specific heat, which is in general not well computed in the canonical ensemble, can be computed with great precision.
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